Sunday, January 21, 2018

Stop this Carnival last-minute hustle

Express editorial logo339

Mark Fraser

 This evening’s Dimanche Gras, showcasing the season’s calypso offerings, should indisputably represent the best  in the discipline. T&T puts its trust in the managerial and planning capacities of Trinbago Unified Calypsonians’ Organisation (TUCO), the officially designated “interest group”. 

It’s thus disappointing to recognise in TUCO another interest group behaving as if the arrival of Carnival 2014 had taken them by surprise. In a tiresomely familiar pattern, suddenly, as the pre-Carnival weeks shorten into days, stakeholders reach out and grab headlines, assailing set arrangements and making demands.

Twelve months after the last festival, TUCO was not only hustling a claim for $1 million more in prize money. Worse, it is now also conceding that its systems may be less than satisfactory for determining who gets the prize. 

This is the conclusion to be drawn from TUCO president Brother Resistance’s admission that the calypso judges may be less competent than expected. Only after decisions had been taken to place some Calypso Fiesta semi-finals singers, but not others, into the finals, was TUCO voicing concerns about the need for the judges to “better understand the calypso”.

On this basis alone, Brother Resistance and others in his interest group should hardly expect much respect for TUCO, now identified with a failed, last-minute, demand for another $1 million in prize money. Indeed, TUCO’s own posture may now be regarded as disrespectful toward public opinion.

“We are hoping to tighten up the judging system (and) upgrade personnel through the holding of workshops,” the TUCO president said, airily, and somewhat alarmingly, last week.

Even as observers, calypso fans and others scrutinised and queried the selections for, and exclusions from, the Dimanche Gras finals, TUCO sounded less than properly confident in the integrity of its own systems for judging. Why all this “tightening up” and upgrading had not taken place well before Skinner Park last week Saturday, he did not explain. It remains a sad reflection on the organisation that it could run a competition in which the judges are regarded as less than suitably qualified for performance of their assigned function.

The TUCO president left it to be assumed that the judges, called upon to choose knowledgeably from 40 semi-finalists, over long hours at Skinner Park, might themselves have been less than adequately prepared for the assignment. With the pre-eminent representative calypso body expressing its own discomfort about the readiness of its judges, what is the public to think? More under-informed controversy over which singers won selection for Dimanche Gras, and which did not is the inescapable outcome that must be laid at the door of this interest group. TUCO must then take the blame for how tonight’s results are received, and be properly answerable for which calypsoes are selected for million-dollar honours, and why.